State lawmaker wants to tax sugary drinks

February 18, 2010 5:59:13 PM PST
A state senator wants to fight childhood obesity with a tax on sugar. How would it work?

Obesity-related diseases account for nearly 10 percent of all medical spending in the United States, and that's why health experts increasingly calling for taxes on sugary drinks to curve consumption.

State Senator Dean Florez's penny tax on every teaspoon of sugar in beverages, like sodas, would apply to those sweetened drinks sold in stores and restaurants.

About $1.5 billion could be raised to bankroll programs that fight childhood obesity. Nearly one-third of all U.S. children are obese or overweight.

"The more sugar that is added to the drink, the more we're asking folks to participate in our obesity problem in California," Sen. Florez said.

The sugar tax could add up for consumers. A 20-ounce Mountain Dew for instance, has nearly 19 teaspoons of sugar. Non-sodas surprisingly are not any better.

The California Center for Public Health Advocacy found a 20-ounce Snapple has more than 13 teaspoons of sugar -- the tax on that bottle, therefore, would be 13 cents. A 12-ounce Arizona Green Tea has 12-teaspoons and a Vitamin Water has nearly eight teaspoons.

"The economy is hard enough as it is. It just seems the government is finding different ways to tax this, tax that," sugar tax opponent Shawn Dudley said.

Retailers say the state is demonizing one industry when so many other food products contain sugar. They predict leaders will use the money for other purposes.

"The Legislature is looking for places where they can find money to cover the deficit," Bill Dombrowski from the California Retailers Association said.

The California Medical Association points out these drinks need to be targeted because the research is overwhelming.

"There is a clear and startling link that shows consuming these beverages to obesity because of the way our bodies process, or rather, cannot process, sugar in liquid form," Teresa Stark from the California Medical Association said.

It's hard to tell whether the sugar tax will change Californians' behavior. The average adult in California consumes 50 gallons of soda per year or 39 pounds of sugar.

If that sugar tax were in place, the average Californian would pay an extra $43 a year. This tax increase would not apply to diet sodas.


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